Born in the Trap: An Interview With Kodak Black

Torii MacAdams sits down with the 17 year old self proclaimed "Project Baby" from Pompano, Florida.
By    October 1, 2014


Torii MacAdams hates people who pronounce it “jag-wire”

Kodak Black is, at just 17, a distillation of hundreds of years of American history, an embodiment of the complexities of a country locked in an endless struggle with race and class. Kodak is prismatic; through him, any number of political viewpoints can be legitimized. He’s a precociously talented child of immigrants, a Black Horatio Alger, sporting a gold grill in his white sports car, his material successes the type that make cryptic racists stand up “He’s one of the good ones!” He also has “Sniper” tattooed above his right eyebrow. He committed multiple serious crimes before his 16th birthday, and is no stranger to the criminal justice system. Possessor of a troubled past, successful present, and tenuous future, Kodak Black has begun earning himself the reputation as the next Lil’ Boosie with his mixtape Project Baby.

Kodak, born Dieuson Octave (pronounced “ock-taave”), hails from the Golden Acres Projects in Pompano Beach, Florida. Pompano, a mid-sized city about 35 miles north of Miami, is home to the largest percentage of Haitian migrants of any city in the United States. Additionally, Florida is (unfortunately) tied for fifth in the number of children living in single parent homes, at nearly 40%. Kodak’s parentage is no exception to these trends. Though Kodak calls Golden Acres “projects,” labeling the single-story, sun-bleached yellow homes as such elides a degree of intrigue. Golden Acres Development is, indeed, Section 8 housing, but its former full name, Golden Acres Farm Labor Housing, hints at its genesis. Founded in 1947 amongst vegetable fields, the housing was meant for Broward County’s migrant laborers; domestic farm workers still receive priority for available units, though Pompano residents are far more likely to work at a grocery store than the farms subsumed by contemporary sprawl. In 1988, an attorney called it akin to “living in hell”– not much has changed. In many cities, areas stricken by drug addiction and violence during the cratering of humanity lightly dubbed “The Reagan Era” have rebounded, but the Northwest section of Pompano in which Golden Acres lays remains the most impoverished in the city.

Kodak’s subject matter is concerned with previous and future criminal misdeeds, unsurprising for a teen whose Twitter has a photo of the rail-thin rapper in a beige jump suit, shackled, standing outside a courtroom alongside other juvenile offenders. His criminal tales aren’t unqualified fantasies, but told with a sense of pain, vulnerability and regret. On “Dead Time,” Kodak laments the loss of friends because he “rocks beats/[he] shed the streets/ And put the pistol down.” Kodak, of course, has a jack in the box dual-wielding pistols tattooed on the entirety of his right bicep, so the next song on Project Baby is “Ain’t No Fakin It,” on which Kodak raps “Boy, I’m from the block, it ain’t no fakin’ it/ I will have my Haitians eat your face ‘n’ shit/ Comin’ out my hood, it ain’t no makin’ it/ If I catch you slippin’ then I’m takin’ it.” Kodak Black is, somewhat improbably, a disciple of Lil’ Boosie. Boosie is, at first thought, a curious choice; Kodak grew up near a musical hot bed distant from Boosie’s hometown (Baton Rouge), was a toddler when Boosie’s debut Youngest of Da Camp was issued, and couldn’t have been older than 12 or 13 when Boosie began his recent prison stint. Despite this, Project Baby displays similarly developed skills as a teenaged Boosie, 17 at Youngest of Da Camp’s release.

With Boosie awareness at an all-time high, Kodak couldn’t have picked many better rappers to model himself after; Boosie, too, has limited mainstream appeal, but enough underground cache to buoy his career for the foreseeable future. That said, Boosie’s rap career has been prolific when he’s not imprisoned. Black males comprise roughly nine percent of Florida’s population, but almost half of both adult and juvenile prisoners in the state. Kodak, born into a system designed to fail him, with an overzealous criminal justice apparatus eager to prosecute young Black men, is taking a major step to avoid future stints behind bars. Like other 17-year olds, he’s working toward his high school diploma.

When Kodak’s not in the classroom, he’s in the streets, hustling legally. More precisely, he’s “In Da Streets,” hence the series of short YouTube videos chronically his daily life titled “Fuck Da Industry, I’m in Da Streets.” Kodak’s tireless, always grinding ethic is one of his more endearing qualities, assuming you’re not a past victim of his indiscretion. In the first installment of the video series, he gives out innumerable free mixtapes, passing them out of car windows, placing a few on a gas station porno mag rack, all the while smiling in a Project Baby t-shirt. These are methods perfected by his Southern predecessors, rappers-cum-salesmen with CDs and tapes overflowing from their trunks. It appears Kodak’s hustling has paid dividends; concert footage shows sweaty, swaying teens in bright Polo shirts, phone cameras at the ready, rapping every word of his song “4th Quarter.” When I spoke to Kodak, he was sitting in his oft-photographed white Jaguar, which he (sort of) proved to me by honking the horn.

How’d you get the name Kodak Black?

Kodak Black: Well, everybody, they used to just call me Lil’ Black. When I was six, I used to run around and they’d call me Black, and then, when Instagram came out I chose “Kodak Black.” When I started rapping, they liked that name better. When I was just ‘Black,’ that was simple, that was original, and the name, it makes itself. Just cuz I say ‘Kodak Black’ people search my name up, like ‘what does that mean, Kodak Black?’ It’s a long name, you wanna know what I’m talking about.

Tell me what it’s like growing up in Golden Acres.

Kodak Black: Man, it’s crazy. That’s where I’m at right now, Golden Acres. It’s like, multicultural– Haitians, Americans, Puerto Ricans. It used to be a Puerto Rican project back then, when my mama moved from Haiti. She stayed here in Golden Acres, and my daddy stayed in the projects – the other projects– across the street, Ely Estates. It used to be, like, Haitians versus Americans. I’d brawl, like, every day growing up. It’s cooled down, but when I was 16– I’m 17 now, though– when I was 16 my mom ‘n’ them got kicked out of Golden Acres. I’m there right now, though. I’m just here chillin’ ‘cuz these my homeboys. These my friends and stuff, you know?

Has your Haitian heritage influenced your music at all?

Kodak Black: Well, yeah, because where I’m from, a lot of people growing up didn’t know I was Haitian, cuz all the other Haitians, they wasn’t like how I was. I’m more one of the ashy lil’ papis out the projects. I made a way, you know, I was on some stuff like ‘I’mma get the girls,’– they love pretty girls, too, you know–like, y’all can fight I can fight, too, whatever, y’all can rap, I can rap, too. Yeah. And I’mma put on for that.

So you were pretty young when you started rapping?

Kodak Black: I was pretty young. I was in elementary school when I started rapping. A little crew; me, my cousin. After school, me and all my little young homeboys, we used to rap and try to show off for all the older boys. The older boys, they were like, 15. I wasn’t scared to rap. Go in there and bust a rap. Then I started rapping at my school, too. I say, I wanna rap, too. They say, come to the trap. I was seeing some shit. Even though I wasn’t doing what I was seeing. They say come up in the trap house and record up in the microphone, and stuff, one computer. But as a kid, they was scared to like, really be under that pressure like that. I was rapping, I was coming every day after school, in a trap house just rapping. I wasn’t sellin’ no drugs–I was just in elementary school – I was just coming to rap. But in my eyes, I’m like ‘damn, out of everybody else, they outchere.’ How they keep themselves up, I wanted to keep up, too. Whatever they mottos is, that became my motto. I looked up to them. Whatever I see them do, I did, too.

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How’d you get into Lil Boosie?

Kodak Black: Because he out the projects, too. He was the Youngest out Da Camp, and I was the youngest out da camp…and my rap group was called Brutal Youngnz, and out of the Brutal Youngnz, I was the youngest. All my big cousins, they talk like, we talk like that, where Lil Boosie’s from.

So are you into Miami rappers at all? Do you fuck with Trick Daddy, or Spaceghostpurrp, or Rick Ross or any of those dudes?

Kodak Black: Well, I know a couple Trick Daddy songs, but….you know where I’m at, I’m up in Broward.

So you don’t feel any kinship with Miami? You don’t feel close?

Kodak Black: We’re small, nobody knows about us. The closest they get to is Ft. Lauderdale, and they don’t say nor mention Pompano. I listen to Boosie, I listen to Chief Keef too now cuz I feel like he a young nigga that’s like me. He gangbang, I don’t gangbang– I’m Haitian.

I’ve noticed that you’re into a lot of Louisiana rappers like Soulja Slim and Boosie. Would you say that you identify more with Louisiana rappers than Florida rappers?

Kodak Black: Yeah, I told you, like, ever since I was a kid they’d call it – Pompano – “The Nolia.” Pompano or “Pompanolia.” I ain’t sayin we look up to them, but it’s like they got a lot of projects over there, we got a lot of projects over here. Whatever they do, they do. They got real niggas over there, and they got fake niggas over there– it’s like that everywhere in the world– and we got real niggas over here and we got fake niggas over here, too. Them niggas over there ‘bout that, them niggas over here ‘bout that. They get down how we get down.

Can you tell me who your least favorite rappers are, or your least favorite type of rapper?

Kodak Black: Shit. I feel like a lot of rappers are just talking bullshit in the game, a lot of them, like, where the fuck these niggas from, anyways? I feel like it sickens up the streets to be dumb. All the dumb stuff they talking about, it’s just for the kids, that foolishness they talking about. Where Biggie at? I don’t wanna be caught up in that lifestyle. Soulja Slim, where he at?

So would you say you’d judge a rapper based on whether you deem him ‘real,’ or if he’s representing the streets in a way you can identify with?

Kodak Black: I don’t know what anybody’s doin’ out here. I don’t know what you doin’ out here. If you solid, real can mean anything. If you solid, you solid. I can hear it in somebody’s voice. I can hear it in what they say, like ‘How could you let that come out ya mouth?’ Like I know you a fu fu rapper, like ‘fugazi.’ I can hear it in a person’s voice, how they say they words, how they carry theyself, their swag, what they wear, how they wear it.

You rap about breaking into houses. Is that what you went to Juvenile Hall for, was breaking and entering?

Kodak Black: Yeah. I got several run-ins with the Juvenile Hall. I had a little PBL charge– a Punishable By Life charge, or whatever– and I was about to get exiled, but A.D. had me, he paid my lawyer and all that. I took probation for 36 months, but I just got early termination, so I’m about to be off probation September 22nd.

I saw on Instagram the other day that you got pulled over by the cops

Kodak Black: Yeah, you know… that wasn’t nothing, though. That was just bullshit.

Do you feel like the cops fuck with you? You’re not angered by them?

Kodak Black: Naw, I don’t feel like the cops fuck with me. Cuz, they cops, that’s what they supposed to do. If you do something, they got to approach you. I’m not angry with the cops. Personally, fuck the cops, but I’m not angry with them.

I also noticed on your Instagram that you have photos of friends in juvie or jail. How many people do you know that are locked up right now?

Kodak Black: I got a lot of people locked up. I got a lot of juveniles, a lot of kids locked up in juvie and in county you got people like my age, and I got older people who I know. See I got my stretch, I got my respect from the kids and the grown people out here.

Are you back in school now?

Kodak Black: Yeah, I’m back in school. I be flip-flopping, though, cuz I be trying to take care of stuff with my personal life and my other life. You don’t need school, but that’d be a good little something for me, and I can show everybody that, yeah I did that, and also that just because I’m a rapper, it don’t mean I don’t gotta be in school, you know. I’m still in school, I try. My years with the juvenile detention center slowed me down or whatever. I’d get in trouble at school, I couldn’t get in no schools, so I gotta sit at my house. Stuff like that. Get suspended from school too much.

So you like being back at school, or is it just something you feel you have to do?

Kodak Black: I like it, I like it. I wanna go to graduation, walk across the stage, be in front of the cameras and stuff like ‘Yeeeeah, I’m here, Project Baby.’ I wanna pull up to my graduation, my prom, all that shit in a Jag.

What are your future plans for your career? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Kodak Black: Straight M’s m’s m’s m’s m’s, that all I wanna do. That’s what I be thinking about every day. They gon’ hear me and they gon’ hate me when I’m rich. I’m gon’ be rich, I’m gon’ be rich. My momma told me that I’m gon’ be rich. My momma told me I’m the chosen one. My brothers couldn’t never tell me nothin’. I’m the Chief, but I’m the youngest, though, but it’s like I’m the oldest. I got more swag, more everything, all the respect, all that. I do more for my people. The rest of my family, they don’t believe in me. Everybody think ‘Oh yeah, Chief gon’ go to jail, or ‘Chief gon do this.’ Everybody doubt me. My father is not, like, even in my life. My side of the family with my father, they don’t even acknowledge me or whatever. And I treat my whole family like ‘Alright, watch me,’ except my Mama.

Your mom’s your biggest supporter?

Kodak Black: Not really, but that’s who I love the most. I love my mama. I treat my mama like I’m her husband.

You don’t have any relationship with your father?

Kodak Black: Nooo, nooo. I’m a bastard. My daddy and his brothers, all the little Haitian ladies around here know them. He’s got five babies by his Goddaughter. His Goddaughter’s like, twenty something.

Does he still live in Pompano? Do you know where he is?

Kodak Black: If I tell you, I’m lyin’.

A few quick questions: Boosie fade, or dreads?

Kodak Black: I got a Kodak Fade. I don’t got a Boosie fade, I got a Kodak fade.

Miami or Florida State?

Kodack Black: Florida State

Favorite gun?

Kodak Black: Well, as long as it shoots. If I own it, I’mma make myself like it. In the hood, you run into a whole ‘lotta guns.

What’s your next tattoo?

Kodak Black: Shit, if I knew I’d have it on me right now. That’s what I’m thinking of right now, too. You tell me what my next tattoo is.

Last question. What’s your dream car?

Kodak Black: A Jag, a Jag, a Jag, a Jag. I love the Jag.

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